I’ve been freelancing for more than four years, and the number one word other freelancers use when they refer to me is “driven.”
I wish it was “talented,” but in fact, talent isn’t always the thing that helps you achieve success in your career. The key is continuing to work toward what you want.
How does that happen, when you’re being battered by the freelance world? It’s all about staying motivated, honestly.
When I first started content marketing, it was out of sheer necessity. My maternity leave was coming to an end, and the job I was returning to was not stable, and it wasn’t full-time.
I needed money, and the opportunity to write content for an agency, helping with a specific project they were under a tight deadline for, fell in my lap. I was paid by the project, and there seemed to be an unlimited number of projects to take on.
Eventually, those projects ran out, and I had to start finding my own work. It isn’t always easy, but really? Nothing is. So I keep going, and I keep these five tips on hand for the days I’m having trouble staying motivated.
Money is a Great Motivator
Nothing lights a fire under
On the other hand, some people wouldn’t continue to write if their bills didn’t depend on it, or at least their writing wouldn’t be nearly as prolific. As I’ve said before, writing is a muscle that needs to be flexed regularly. The more you do it, the easier the words flow.
Unless you’re writing about peeling tomatoes. I can’t help you, then.
Self-Care Isn’t Just a Buzzword
As the mother of two young children, sometimes I can’t help but roll my eyes when I hear people talking about the necessity of self-care. I went without any self-care whatsoever for the first three months of each baby’s life, so I tend to forget that it can actually be incredibly beneficial, especially for creatives.
You don’t need to go for a $100 massage every week, but cherish your creative soul regularly. Take a page from The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, and arrange a date with yourself, to refill your creative bucket. Go to a local art gallery, or make something crafty, or just cuddle up with a good book and you’ll be surprised how refreshed you feel when you return to your computer.
Set Goals to Increase Motivation
I’m not talking about income goals, although those can be useful, long-term. I’m referring to more unusual goals that will keep your brain engaged in a different way than a vague “be successful” goal.
For instance, this year I’m aiming for 100 rejections to my journalistic pitching.
You may have heard of this before, but what makes it even more engaging is joining (or starting) a writing group to support the 100 rejections goal. The result of all those rejections is likely going to be more than a few acceptances, and you’ll probably refine your pitching process as well.
Another goal is to send out 50 LOIs a week (or some other number that currently seems crazy). Another one still is to set a time limit and see how many companies you can research on LinkedIn to find points of contact for in a set amount of time. These ideas are about gamifying the tedious task of finding more work, and you’d be shocked at how effective they are.
Remember Why You Started Freelancing
Everyone has their reasons.
Maybe yours had to do with the flexibility and unlimited income potential; for me, it was rediscovering my love of writing.
Okay, and the money.
But sometimes, when I’m having trouble finishing an assignment, or reaching out to my editors with new pitches, I have to remind myself that the words come relatively easy for me, and that’s why I love it.
Even when I’m writing about the velocity of hurricane-force winds on roofs, and what type of insulation might be most beneficial for homeowners in that scenario. In fact, especially when I’m writing about that.
Get Out of the House
It seems counterintuitive, because don’t you get most of your work done at home, in front of your computer? Well, yes, but sometimes staying motivated requires you to take breaks, get fresh air, and maybe socialize with actual humans for a little while.
I’m always shocked by how energized I feel after having coffee with my neighbor or a fellow writer. Likewise, that little bit of exercise needed to walk to the store instead of driving (assuming you don’t live in the middle of nowhere) can give your brain the oxygen it needs to hit that deadline later today.
Also, don’t underestimate how much more productive you can be when you change the scenery. Whether it’s the library or my favorite cafe, I seem to write more easily when I’m out of the house every so often. When I remember.
There’s no question that being a freelancer comes with benefits and drawbacks, both of which are often the same points. Flexibility is great, until you procrastinate well into the night of a deadline. Being able to write about whatever you want is amazing, until you lose your inspiration for a week or two. Ultimately, though, freelancing is an incredible opportunity to explore your potential. Hopefully this guide can help you keep your eyes on the prize.